‘It’s been a really positive outcome’: condo owner
A legal battle between Copper Ridge condominium owners and their developer entered its end game this week with a Yukon Supreme Court decision
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
DEVELOPMENT IN LIMBO – The semi-built Falcon Ridge apartment complex has been open to the elements since owners of the nearby condos challenged its completion in court.
A legal battle between Copper Ridge condominium owners and their developer entered its end game this week with a Yukon Supreme Court decision that may see millions of dollars awarded to residents and a disputed, “half-decrepit” apartment complex torn down.
Justice Ron Veale sided largely with Falcon Ridge complainants.
He has ruled “it would be unjust and inequitable to the majority of unit owners that oppose the condo developer’s proposal to allow it to proceed with the construction” of the building.
In July 2012, developer Brian Little began construction of a now partially completed three-storey complex — and has since sunk more than $1 million into the project — despite not having consent from nearby condo owners concerned about property values and “community cohesion.”
The condo board felt the cube-like structure — initially slated for four storeys with 24 units — would have the effect of “destroying the character of the development that unit owners found to be so attractive in the first place,” Veale said.
Helen Booth, the Falcon Ridge condo board’s president, supports the court decision.
“The crux of it was that in the plan up until 2012, there was basically no mention of this ... the crucial point there being that consent from owners was not obtained,” she said in an interview.
The subdivision’s declaration and plan from 2005 include only detached houses, duplexes and rowhouses.
Any exceptions — like an apartment block — require amendments to both documents, and must be agreed to in writing by each homeowner.
The structure is “half-decrepit” and an “eyesore,” one homeowner said in court last year.
In January 2013, the judge ordered a halt to all construction on the building, which has stood vacant ever since, its framing and particle boards exposed to the elements.
Veale awarded costs to the condo owners, who were seeking $2.6 million in outstanding fees, penalties and accrued interest.
The specific amount awarded has yet to be calculated, Booth said.
Veale ruled that a combination of four-plex and single-family units could take the place of the apartment.
Little has 90 days to submit a new plan for the parcel.
“I’m glad we have a decision, and I’m really excited that we have the green light to finish the community,” he told the Star today.
“And ultimately, we want to work with them and continue to build a good, strong community there,” he said.
Little — the developer behind the Mountain Air Estates complex off Mountainview Drive — said “it’s a bit too early to say” what will happen to the million-dollar edifice, or the land it sits on.
“But we’re going to be designing it so that it fits in with what the judge thinks is fair and what works well for the community,” he added.
“(I)t would cost a substantial amount to demolish it,” Veale said.
Booth seemed to have a clearer idea about the land parcel’s future.
Since the apartment building is a violation of the only plan consented to by the condo owners, she said, razing it appears to be the only option.
“The ruling calls for four-plexes and single-family, which I believe takes the building out of the equation.
“That would be a really, really big four-plex.”
In the court ruling, Booth noted “concerns were voiced with respect to the notion of living in a high-density environment.”
One unit owner, Fabian Barajas, said: “I believe that an apartment building in Falcon Ridge will significantly decrease the value of our home because of the increased traffic, lack of adequate parking, loss of aesthetic qualities in the complex, loss of community feel of the complex and most especially the fact that the apartment building is located directly beside our home.”
The structure places Barajas’ building in shadow during the evening, according to the ruling.
He said he would not have purchased his unit had he known an apartment building would obstruct his view.
Rick Karp, another unit owner and president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, said in court last year he “was led to believe there would be an apartment there.”
He was fine with the structure’s impact on his idyllic suburban skyline.
He also said, speaking from professional experience, that it was understandable that paving and landscaping are not yet complete — a complaint from multiple unit owners — since they are usually the finishing touches in a development.
Twenty units are currently without landscaping or paving, Booth said.
“Falcon Drive just kind of stops, and then there’s just gravel.”
As well, a retaining wall is missing from the front of six properties, she added.
The condo corporation’s lawyer, James Tucker, claimed last October the development company had been “holding them hostage” with promises to complete these features once the homeowners permitted the apartment building to go up.
“It’s been a long year,” Booth said, “but it’s been a really positive outcome.”
By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS